Welcome to Dr. James Wilson's Adrenal Fatigue Blog

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

stressed woman holding her faceIn order to get a true grasp on stress, you first must learn how to recognize it in yourself. The mind, body and judgment are affected by stress in many ways, and they’re all directly tied to the physiological changes of the fight-or-flight response. There are no set signs and symptoms of stress, as these vary widely from person to person. Some experience primarily physical symptoms, like lower back pain, stomach problems and outbreaks on the skin. In others, the stress pattern centers around emotional symptoms, such as crying spells or hypersensitivity. For others, the changes mostly affect their behavior or thought processes. Below are some of the more common signs and symptoms of stress, broken down by category. (It’s important to note that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems.)

Cognitive Symptoms       

  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Indecisiveness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Poor behavior/being unlike one’s self
  • Focusing on the negative
  • Racing or anxious thoughts

Emotional Symptoms

• Constant worrying
• Fearful anticipation
• Agitation and moodiness
• Restlessness
• Short temper
• Irritability, impatience
• Inability to relax
• Feeling tense and “on edge”
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation

Behavioral Symptoms

• Decrease in sex drive/libido
• Eating less or more then usual
• Habitual craving for salty or sweet foods
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Neglecting responsibilities
• Avoiding contact with others
• Using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to unwind
• Nervous habits (e.g. pacing or nail biting)
• “Overdoing it” (e.g. exercising, working)
•  Using caffeine to stay going
• Becoming argumentative or combative
• Overreacting to unexpected problems

Physical / Physiological Symptoms

• Chronic fatigue
• Tense pain in head and/or back
• Stiffness and tension in muscles
• Constipation or diarrhea
• Nausea, dizziness
• Difficulty sleeping/insomnia
• Increased heart rate/chest pain
• Increase or decrease in blood pressure
• Loss or gain in weight
• High or low blood sugar
• Skin conditions (e.g. eczema, hives)
• Frequent or prolonged colds

If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see your health-care professional for a full evaluation. A healthcare practitioner who is familiar with how stress and adrenal fatigue affects overall health can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are related to stress. Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Program may help your adrenal glands and the stress response system better cope with stress. Providing you make appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, you can help put an end to the suffering caused by 21st century stress.

About the Author

Dr Eric BakkerEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Recipe: Dairy and Gluten Free Lasagna

lasagna by Flickr user VancityAllieThose with food allergies usually have to skip the lasagna. With this dairy and gluten free lasagna, feel free to take a second look. For Vegetarian Lasagna: Follow the recipe below but substitute firm, drained and crumbled tofu or chopped tempeh for the ground meat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes rice lasagna noodles
  • 4-5 cups tomato sauce – 2 jars (read label to make sure it doesn’t contain cheese or wheat/gluten)
  • 2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey or chicken)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red or sweet onion – peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
  • salt, pepper, basil, oregano, ground fennel – to taste
  • 6-8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups mushrooms – sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes – cooked and peeled
  • 1 medium butternut squash – cooked, seeds removed and peeled
  • salt, pepper, basil, oregano, ground fennel – to taste
  • option 1 –  2-3 cups grated vegan cheese (read label to make sure it doesn’t contain milk or casein)
  • option 2 – 2 roasted red peppers (seeds removed) – 1 jar

Directions:

1) Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until just beginning to brown. Add garlic and ground meat and cook stirring occasionally until cooked through. Season with salt, pepper, basil, oregano and ground fennel – to taste. Remove from heat.

2) Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Wash spinach. Put in pot and cover with a lid. Heat over medium, stirring once or twice, just until spinach starts to wilt (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and roll spinach in several layers of paper towel to drain.

4) Boiling rice lasagna noodles in water first is optional but makes the finished lasagna moister and easier to cut.  To boil noodles, bring several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the 2 packages of noodles to pot. Boil uncovered for 8 minutes. Drain. If you don’t boil the noodles, just proceed with the uncooked noodles.

5) Mash squash and sweet potato together until smooth.

6) Assembly: Cover bottom of lasagna pan (at least 9”x13”x3”) with 1 cup tomato sauce. Lay a single layer of noodles over the sauce, overlapping edges. Cover with ½ cooked meat, then a layer of ½ spinach, then a layer of ½ mashed squash mixture and a layer of ½ mushrooms and another cup of tomato sauce. Repeat this layering process starting with a layer of noodles. Cover top with noodles and remaining tomato sauce. If using dairy-free cheese, sprinkle top with cheese. If using roasted pepper, lay slices of the pepper over top of lasagna.

7) Cooking: Cover tightly with lightly oiled tin foil. Put lasagna dish on a cookie sheet to catch and spills. Place in preheated oven (350 F) and bake for 40-50 minutes until liquid is bubbling. Remove foil and let sit to cool for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with salad.

 

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Eliminating Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances

In part 1 and part 2 of this blog, I explained various ways you may be sensitive, allergic or intolerant to certain foods, how these can impact your health and put additional stress on your adrenals, and some ways to begin to identify problematic foods.  In Part 3 below, I’ll show you how to clarify your suspicions that some foods may be bothering you and eliminate these problem foods from your diet.

The value of an elimination and challenge diet

banned

Image credit: Flickr user uvw916a

If you are eating nutritious foods, getting sufficient rest, exercising, and creating quality time alone or with people you care about yet don’t feel as well as you think you should, hidden food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances could be at fault. They can impact your immune system, your digestive system, and your ability to tolerate stress.  They are associated with and can cause or complicate chronic health problems – particularly the following:

  • auto-immune conditions
  • digestive issues
  • joint or muscle pain
  • neurological or emotional issues (like migraines, ADHD, depression, and some coordination problems)
  • eczema or allergies

There are many variations on the elimination and challenge diet, but all share common characteristics. In a nutshell, the elimination portion of the diet removes potentially offending foods from your diet; the challenge portion puts the foods back into your diet one at a time and allows you to discover which ones are causing problems. Unlike an immediate allergic reaction such as hives, swelling or shortness of breath, many food sensitivities or intolerances create more subtle or chronic problems in your body – such as joint pain, fatigue, digestive disturbances, or emotional or behavioral issues. If you eat the problematic food regularly, the related reactions can be so chronic that there is no clear cause and effect between the offending food and your symptoms. By removing the food for a short period of time, you can allow your reaction to lessen. Then after a period of time, you reintroduce the food. If you then experience the same symptoms that you had been experiencing chronically, a link between the food and the symptom becomes more easily identifiable.

How to begin

Before you begin the elimination, list any symptoms that are currently problematic for you across the top of a page. Below them list today’s date, then give each symptom a numerical value from 1-5 based on average severity over the past 2 weeks (1 = extremely mild, 5 = extremely severe). These symptoms may be anything from abdominal cramping to mood swings. If you have a symptom that isn’t always present but rather comes and goes, such as a migraine or heart palpitations, record how frequently you experience it (e.g. once a month, twice a week, etc.) It can also be helpful to record your weight and body measurements at this time since food sensitivities can sometimes contribute to water retention.

Eliminating foods

NOTE: Do NOT do an elimination and challenge diet without consulting your doctor if you have ever experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a food or are already aware of food allergies which cause airway restriction.

If you believe that your food reactions are linked to only a few foods, you could choose to simply eliminate those to begin with. However, it is usually best (although more difficult) to remove as many potentially problematic foods as possible, not only to increase your odds of discovering the ones that are causing difficulties, but because sometimes it is the combination of foods, rather than a single food, that is at issue. Also, it is sometimes the foods you crave and eat regularly that are the main culprits. The primary categories of food to include in the elimination and challenge are below

Categories to Eliminate

Examples of Category (not comprehensive)

Wheat and Gluten-containing grains white or wheat bread, pasta, bulgur, rye crackers, barley, spelt, barley, soy sauce
Dairy and dairy products milk, ice cream, cream-based soups, yogurt, cheese, casein, butter, cookies
Corn and corn products popcorn, corn syrup, corn batters, dextrin, ketchup, tortillas
Citrus fruits oranges, orange juice, lemons, citrus beverages
Eggs mayonnaise, noodles, cakes, bread, albumin
Shellfish shrimp, crab, mussels, scallops, clams
Processed meats hotdogs, sausage, lunch meats
Soy soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy ice cream
Peanuts Peanut butter
Artificial preservatives, colorings, sweeteners BHA, BHT, yellow dye # 5, aspartame, saccharine, MSG
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, hydrogenated oils Dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, coffee, chocolate, colas, beer, wine, partially hydrogenated oils

If a food is not on this list but you eat it almost every day, it may be helpful to test that food, and obviously, if you suspect a food other than those included on the list above, add it to your list. For example, some people with joint pain are especially sensitive to substances called alkaloids found in a group of plants commonly known as nightshades. If joint pain is an issue of yours, it may be helpful to eliminate and challenge nightshade vegetables as well. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Supporting yourself through the process

make it happenThe goal is to eliminate each of the foods on your list for a period of 1-3 weeks. Although the concept of an elimination diet is relatively simple, it is anything but easy. If you suddenly feel panicked at the thought of giving up your morning latte and scone, allow that feeling and observe it. Sometimes psychological “addictions” to foods are clues to sensitivities. Give yourself time to prepare for the elimination emotionally. It can be hard to completely alter your eating patterns, and it often involves altering your lifestyle as well. I encourage you to nurture yourself during the elimination and to use the time to take care of yourself emotionally, socially and physically, eliminating those things, people or behaviors from your life which are not healthy, and bringing in those that are. This is a good time to incorporate a yoga, meditation or gentle exercise program. It is not a good time to begin a very strenuous exercise program if you are not already used to it! As you eliminate foods, your body may experience some physical withdrawals or detoxification reactions. In fact, sometimes headaches, body aches, fatigue and irritability may actually increase the first few days. During this time, drink plenty of water and eat a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits. These foods are high in antioxidants and provide important nutrients required by the liver to carry out detoxification. Extra vitamin C (non-corn sourced) can be helpful as well. Be gentle with yourself and realize that this is not an exercise in deprivation; you have chosen to eliminate and challenge these foods to discover more about your body and experience more energy and vitality! Also remember that the elimination phase does not last forever.

Reintroducing Foods

If all your symptoms are completely gone after a week, you may begin the challenge phase. If not, I typically encourage people to wait 14 days. By this time, food related symptoms are usually gone or have noticeably decreased, yet you are still within the window of time in which your reactions will be relatively easy to identify. To challenge foods, reintroduce the foods you eliminated one at a time. Pick one and ingest it two times in the same day (unless you have an obvious reaction after the first ingestion). Don’t change anything else in your diet for the next 48 hours because sometimes reactions can take up to 2 days to appear. During this time, evaluate your symptoms. Record the food eaten along with the date in the left hand column of your symptoms list and rate each of your symptoms. If you have no reaction to the food after 2 days, you may then incorporate it into your diet and challenge the next food. If you do have a reaction, remove the food from your diet again and wait until your reaction has calmed down before challenging the next food. This process will help you uncover allergies, sensitivities, and reactions to foods.

Some examples of success

This is not an easy process. However, if you do discover a significant food reaction, eliminating it from your diet can make a huge impact on your life and your health. I had a 9 year old patient who was having a range of emotional and behavioral issues: difficulty concentrating in school, being disruptive in class, fighting with other children, and being unable to sit still at home. During the course of an elimination and challenge, we identified a reaction to corn. His parents removed corn and corn products from his diet, and his behavior transformed. He became attentive and well-behaved in class, stopped getting in fights and began playing well with other kids, and his mother said for the first time since she could remember, he participated with the family in the evenings watching television or talking.
I had another patient who came to me complaining of excruciating abdominal pain that sent him to the ER an average of twice a month. He had had extensive imaging done and had been given prescriptions for pain, all to no avail. I ran labs on him and discovered a marker for gluten sensitivity. Using an elimination and challenge diet, we discovered that gluten was a major issue. He eliminated gluten from his diet, and his abdominal distress disappeared completely.

Final Words of Encouragement

Knowledge is power. The more you know about the things that impact and affect your health, the more choices you have in how to deal with them. I have outlined the basic process for an elimination and challenge diet for you, but there are many resources to help you through the confusing details. Websites such as celiac.org, cornallergens.com, and godairyfree.org are just a few places that offer recipes as well as assistance in locating hidden derivatives of foods in the diet. Adrenalfatigue.org has a section that discusses the connection between adrenal function (i.e. stress) and allergies (Adrenal Function in Health Conditions – Allergies) and also lists many of the foods that contain the common allergens (Adrenal Function in Health Conditions – Allergens). Challenge yourself to try an elimination and challenge diet; you may discover that the foods you were eating regularly were adding to your stress and that without them you feel better than you ever thought you could.

About the Author

Dr. Lise NaugleDr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Identifying Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances

In part 1 of this blog, “Making Sense of Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances,” I explained the various ways you may be sensitive, allergic or intolerant to specific foods and how these can impact your health and put additional stress on your adrenals. In Part 2 below, I will help you understand some ways to identify them, and in my next blog, Part 3, I’ll show you how to eliminate them.

IgE Food Allergies – The Usual Suspects

suspectsIn order to overcome any type of food reaction, you must first identify which foods are causing problems. Eight foods are responsible for approximately 90% of food allergies: shellfish, milk, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and soy. In the case of the “typical” food allergy it is usually easy to identify a problem if you ingest the food. One bite can cause an immediate allergic reaction.  These allergic reactions are known as IgE mediated allergies or immediate hypersensitivity reactions. IgE refers to the type of antibody produced by the immune system in response to the allergen. Antibodies are the immune cells your body makes against something your body identifies as “foreign.” Because this type of reaction can be severe, it is preferable to determine IgE allergies without actually eating the food in question.  IgE allergies can usually be discovered via a skin prick test by an allergist. A tiny amount of the food is applied to pricked skin. A positive test causes a red wheal (hive). This test is very sensitive, but not very specific. That means that sometimes someone will react to the test for a food when they actually are sensitive to a related food. For this reason, it’s important to use this test along with a thorough diet history and only test relevant foods. Also, there is a small chance that someone could have a severe allergic reaction to the test foods. A possible alternative is to test for IgE allergies via a blood test, called a RAST test, and avoid the possibility of a dangerous allergic response. Just know that these are fairly expensive, aren’t as sensitive, are not available for all foods, and typically need to be confirmed by eating the foods in question and looking for a response. (Because IgE mediated responses can be dangerous, it is best to do this under the care of a physician.)

In the case of food sensitivities in which an immune reaction results from antibodies other than IgE, there are different lab tests that can be done. Typically these test IgG or IgA antibodies. IgG is the main antibody in the blood while IgA is the primary antibody in the digestive and respiratory tracts. Typically IgA and IgG food allergy tests involve adding a drop of your blood to food antigens (the protein portion of the food to which the immune system reacts) and looking for a reaction. The IgG test is more sensitive (it can detect the correct antibodies more easily) but less specific (it sometimes detects the wrong antibodies). The IgA test is more specific and less sensitive. If you decide to do these tests, it is very important that you have been eating the foods you’re testing for roughly 6 weeks or longer before you have your blood drawn. Your body does not make antibodies against an antigen (the food in this case) unless it is exposed to it. So even if you are reactive to a food, after you haven’t eaten it in a while your antibody levels will go down – wonderful news when treating the condition, but problematic when testing. Unfortunately, these tests are also relatively expensive, not always reproducible, and the results on paper don’t always correlate with the symptoms you experience.

Celiac Disease

celiac's diseaseIn celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, a very specific type of immune reaction occurs. The body creates antibodies against certain proteins found in wheat and other grains, and these antibodies then attack the body’s own intestinal cells mistaking them for foreign cells (auto=self: autoimmune = immunity against self).  Historically, a biopsy of the digestive tract has been considered the gold standard for diagnosing celiac. Now there are lab tests which some physicians feel can predict celiac as accurately as a biopsy if used in conjunction with a food challenge. The most commonly ordered tests are for anti-gliadin antibodies (antibodies against a specific portion of the gluten protein) and tissue transglutaminase antibodies (antibodies that attack the intestinal cells).

These same tests can sometimes be useful in looking for gluten sensitivity unrelated to abdominal or intestinal problems, but there are limitations. One of the primary problems is that there are many proteins on the grain in addition to those that we know cause celiac disease, and lab tests aren’t available for most of them. If you are reacting to a protein in the grain other than the few we have a test for, nothing will show up on the lab test.

Testing for Food Intolerances

For food intolerances there are sometimes tests available. For example, in the case of lactose intolerance, there are two common tests. Each begins with drinking a liquid with high levels of lactose. In one, blood sugar levels are measured after a couple hours. If your blood sugar doesn’t rise, you aren’t breaking down and absorbing the milk sugar. In the other test, the amount of hydrogen you exhale is measured at regular intervals for up to 3 hours after drinking the liquid. Typically, people don’t exhale a large amount of hydrogen, but if you are not absorbing the lactose, the milk sugar gets broken down by colonic bacteria that create a lot of hydrogen and other gases (one of the main reasons lactose intolerance is so painful!). Lab tests don’t exist for every food intolerance though, or for most of the sensitivities related to the drug-like components in food. In the case of caffeine, sometimes an elevated heart rate or blood pressure will let you know that you are sensitive to the stimulant effects, but for many pharmacological components, there is nothing easily measurable.

If you’ve been reading closely, you may have noticed some patterns emerging:  although many lab tests exist and can prove useful, none is 100% accurate, most are fairly expensive, and there are many situations for which we don’t even have lab tests. This is why in my practice I encouraged my patients to do an elimination and challenge diet rather than a laboratory test (except in the case of IgE mediated allergies). The diet is much less expensive than the labs; will help detect various types of food reactions- allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, and reactions to pharmacologically active food constituents- and it is the first step in treatment as well. Stay tuned for the next blog in which I describe how to do the elimination and challenge diet.

Continue to part 3 – Eliminating Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances

About the Author

Dr. Lise NaugleDr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Making Sense of Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances

In this post, I address the meanings, misuse and differences between allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. In the next post, I talk about what you can do to identify food allergies and sensitivities. The final post in this series is on eliminating allergies, sensitivities and intolerances

know your allergens sign

There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation regarding food sensitivities and their effects on your body. When you’re under stress or if you have adrenal fatigue, it is important to nourish your body with healthy foods. However, in some people, the ingestion of certain (normally healthy) foods can create a physiological stress that adds to the total body burden and challenges the adrenal glands. Identifying and removing offending foods from your diet can help reduce your stress load and improve your health—especially if your adrenals are fatigued—but it is important to know what to look for and to understand what you are dealing with.

Most people are aware of the classic food allergy: you take a bite of shrimp, your tongue swells and you break out in hives. The problem is that some people assume that if this isn’t happening to them, they don’t have food sensitivities—which isn’t necessarily the case. On the other hand, many people experience an energy crash after they ingest sugar and think they are allergic to it—which isn’t possible. That doesn’t mean that sugar can’t create its own set of problems in your body. (I’ll get to that in a minute). My goal in this blog is to help you understand the various types of food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances and reactions to pharmacologically active (those that induce a drug-like effect) food components. Any of these may stress your adrenals and cause them, and in some cases your immune system, to work overtime.

Let’s start with some definitions. An allergy is a type of hypersensitivity to a food—an adverse immunologic response to a protein found in the diet. This is why sugar can’t be an allergen. Sugar is pure carbohydrate, not protein, and a protein is required to trigger the immune response. The example I used with the shrimp is what is known as an IgE mediated allergy, the most widely recognized food allergy. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is a type of immune cell. In this type of food allergy, IgE triggers symptoms such as hives, swelling, and in some cases anaphylaxis (a life-threatening condition that causes airway constriction) shortly after ingestion of the offending food.

gluten free aisle by Flickr user ilovememphisOther types of hypersensitivity (mediated by different immune cells such as IgA or IgG) can also occur. Although not an “allergy” in the classic sense, they can create an inflammatory response and are responsible for many chronic disease states. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains, often affects the body in this way and can be responsible for bloating, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. In the worst cases, gluten can cause celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that severely damages the intestinal lining. Celiac is associated with other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes and thyroiditis. Gluten sensitivity, even without intestinal effects, has been linked to psychiatric and neurological problems, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ataxia, a disorder that causes loss of muscle coordination.

Food intolerances, such as lactose (milk sugar) intolerance, are often the result of a deficiency in metabolism. In the case of lactose intolerance, the digestive enzyme called lactase that is needed to break down the lactose is missing or present in insufficient quantities. As a result, the milk sugar enters the large intestine incompletely digested, and the bacteria that live in the intestine ferment it, producing large amounts of gas as a byproduct, which causes bloating, loose stools and abdominal discomfort.

this way to caffeine by Flickr user leejordanSome foods have a pharmacological (drug-like) effect on the body. Caffeine is a central nervous system (brain) stimulant and can cause rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure. A substance called tyramine, found in smoked meats and fermented foods like cheese, causes release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and has been implicated in the development of migraines. Opioids are chemicals that act like narcotics and may induce pain relief and sedation. Opioids have been found in both wheat and dairy proteins. Some people report sensitivities to additives such as artificial sweeteners, chemical flavor enhancers such as MSG, and certain dyes.

Finally, some foods influence the body’s metabolism and cause physiologic effects that way.  Sugar is the primary source of energy for the brain. If blood sugar is allowed to drop too low—because you’ve gone too long without food or because you ate too much sugar too quickly and compensatory mechanisms have overshot their mark—the brain doesn’t receive the sugar it needs and produces symptoms such as irritability, palpitations, anxiety or even a personality change.

Now that you are aware of the various ways foods can negatively impact and create stress in your body, I’ll help you learn some ways to identify which foods may be causing your problems.

Continue to part 2 – Identifying Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances

Image Credits: Gluten-free grocery aisle by Flickr user ilovememphis; Caffeine sign by Flickr user leejordan

About the Author

Dr. Lise NaugleDr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Recipes – Vegan Black Bean Brownies and Bison with Lentils

Here are two more allergen- and health-conscious recipes to try out this weekend. An employee brought the brown bean brownies to a company dinner and they were outstanding – a great alternative to traditional brownies. The bison with lentils recipe comes from our very own Scott Brynaert. Enjoy!

Black Bean Brownies

Notes: Rolled oats run through the food processor may substituted for the instant oats. Use optional sugar if your bananas are still green and not very ripe.

brownies

Image credit: Flickr user yum9me

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 whole bananas
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp.vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup instant oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Grease an 8×8″ pan and set aside.
3. Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scrapping sides as needed.
4. Stir in the oats and pour batter into the pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing. Note: if you find these brownies are too soft or too fudge-y, add another 1/4 cup oats or flour.

 Bison with Lentils

lentils

Image credit: Flickr user su-lin

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. bison stew meat, cubed
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/3 tsp. garam masala
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1-14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot on low heat, add onions and oil. Let cook for 15-20 minutes until caramelized, stirring occasionally.
2. Add garlic and bison, stirring until bison is browned, then add the lentils.
3. Stir in spices and add the water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer on low for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the kidney beans and simmer for 30 more minutes, or until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

 

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Yummy Allergen-Free Recipes – Gluten & Dairy Free Muffins

Here are two gluten- and dairy-free muffin recipes that don’t sacrifice on taste. And with no added fats, these muffins can be enjoyed without that nagging guilt. Enjoy!

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Blueberry Muffins

(prep time 40 minutes, including baking time)

blueberries

Image credit: Flickr user brx01

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups oat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lemon – grated rind and juice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup natural honey or agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup rice or soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mace or anise (optional)
  • 2 cups washed and dried blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Lightly coat muffin pan (12 muffins) with nonstick spray or use nonstick muffin liners.
3. Mix or sift flour, baking powder, salt and lemon rind (and mace or anise, if using), making sure there are no big lumps.
4. Make a well in the flour and add eggs. Beat eggs with fork.
5. Add lemon juice, vanilla and honey (or agave syrup) to eggs and beat together.
6. Beat milk into egg mixture with fork.
7. Stir wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon until completely blended.
8. Gently stir in blueberries.
9. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling them almost to top.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and center springs back when touched.
11. When cool, store in plastic bag. Can be frozen and reheated individually by microwave (50 sec).

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Flourless Almond Muffins

(prep time 40 minutes, including baking time)

almonds

Image credit: Flickr user HealthAliciousNess

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups raw almonds (with skin on), ground fine
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. almond flavoring
  • 1/2 cup natural maple or agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup rice or soy milk
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup raspberry preserves (preferably fruit-sweetened, no sugar) OR lemon curd OR 1 1/2 cups washed and dried raspberries or blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mace or anise (optional)
  • 2 cups washed and dried blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat muffin pan (12 muffins) with nonstick spray or use nonstick muffin liners.Mix or sift flour, baking powder, salt and lemon rind (and mace or anise, if using), making sure there are no big lumps.

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Lightly coat muffin pan (12 muffins) with nonstick spray or use nonstick muffin liners.
3. Mix ground almonds, baking powder and salt, making sure there are no big pieces of almond.
4. Make a well in the dry mix and add eggs. Beat eggs with fork.
5. Add almond flavoring and maple (or agave syrup) to eggs and beat together.
6. Beat milk into egg mixture with fork.
7. Stir wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon until completely blended.
8. For raspberries: gently stir them in and divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling them almost to top. For jam/lemon curd: divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling them half full.
9. Place 1 tsp. of jam or lemon curd in center of batter in each muffin cup and then add rest of batter.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and center springs back when touched.
11. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Run a nonmetal knife around sides and remove to cooling rack.
12. When cool, store in plastic bag. Can be frozen and reheated individually by microwave (50 sec).

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Stress and Digestion Part 3-Rescuing Your Digestive System

Rescuing Your Digestive System

Although it is not possible to avoid all stress, it is beneficial to keep stress at a manageable level and allow your parasympathetic nervous system to have a chance to repair your body. Here are some things you can do to help:

digestive system• Exercise can help decrease stress hormones in the same way that a physical response to stress worked in our ancestors

• Laugh! It has been shown to reduce cortisol

• Practice yoga or listen to music – Doing so decreases cortisol and the sympathetic stress response

• Take mini-breaks – Just by standing up from your desk and stretching for a few minutes, or taking time to actually chew and taste a healthy lunch rather than hurriedly gobbling something down, you can encourage a parasympathetic response that supports your digestion

• Any activity (not including the use of alcohol or drugs) that allows you to release your stress, to relax, or to slow your heart rate helps your parasympathetic nervous system get back in the driver’s seat, repairing your intestines, absorbing nutrients and allowing your digestive system to function normally

Supplemental Support in Times of Stress

In addition to these lifestyle changes, incorporating supplements that provide focused digestive and adrenal support can make a big difference in enhancing your digestive system’s resilience to stress.

For the Digestive System:

ginger by Flickr user Greatist

Natural fibers like ginger can help keep things moving

• Natural fibers such as psyllium, oat bran, rice bran, prunes, ginger, fenugreek seed and vegetable cellulose help restore normal intestinal mobility

• Digestive enzymes such as papaya or betaine HCl help break down food when the body is not secreting enough enzymes on its own

• Beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, along with fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which feed them, can help reestablish a balanced intestinal environment

• MSM and glycine reduce inflammation and help maintain the health of the digestive tract lining

• L-glutamine, glutamic acid and quercetin enhance the integrity of the intestinal lining

echinacea by Flickr user Focx Photography

Herbs like echinacea soothe and protect the intestines

• Herbs like echinacea, slippery elm and ginger soothe and protect the intestines

• Nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, manganese and phosphatidylcholine are important for normal tissue growth and repair

• Mastic gum, MSM, licorice and glycine are anti-inflammatory and may help to soothe and protect irritated digestive tracts

• Ginger helps reduce nausea and vomiting and aids normal movement of food through the stomach

• Goldenseal, vitamin A and echinacea help promote healthy immune function

• Citrus bioflavonoids increase mucus secretion in the intestines and help protect intestinal cells

For the Adrenals and Nervous System:

Ashwagandha plant

Aswagandha, an adaptogenic herb, can help support the stress response system

• Vitamins A, C and E help modulate the stress response

• B vitamins and choline are required for the normal functioning of the nervous system

• Vitamin C is rapidly depleted in stressful times and needs to be replenished in order for the body to continue to handle stress

• Bioflavonoids increase absorption and effectiveness of vitamin C

• Eleutherococcus is anti-inflammatory and helps curb excessive physiologic changes to stress

• Ashwagandha and maca help modulate many of the adverse changes which accompany stress, including elevated cortisol

• Alfalfa helps protect the nervous system

By supporting your body in times of stress, not only will your digestive tract be healthier, but it will provide your whole body with the nutrients you need to be more resilient to stress and live a healthier, more balanced and productive life.

Read part 1 -Digestion and the Nervous System

Read part 2 – When Stress Takes Over

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Stress and Digestion Part 2-When Stress Takes Over

Stress and Your Digestive System

boxer and punching bag by Flickr user Boston Public Library

Stress sends your body into "fight or flight" mode

Any stress you experience, be it physical or emotional, activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers production of adrenal hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare your body to deal with the stress. This is often called the “fight or flight” response because, metabolically, the body becomes primed for one of two physical reactions: to run or to fight. Under the control of cortisol, adrenaline and the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s focus shifts from maintenance mode to emergency preparedness. This shift causes a number of effects on the digestive system:

• Secretions are reduced, including saliva, digestive enzymes and protective mucus

• Blood is shunted from the digestive organs to the skeletal muscles, reducing nutrient exchange

• Nutrient absorption is diminished

• Muscular contractions in the intestines become irregular and can create cramping, constipation or diarrhea

• Sphincters close, inhibiting normal movement of food through the tract

• Peristalsis slows, allowing toxins to remain longer in the colon and harmful bacteria to multiply and crowd out the beneficial bacteria normally present in the gut

• Over time the lining of the stomach and intestines can become thin and damaged, creating an environment that allows more toxins to be absorbed into the body

• Immunity in the digestive tract is impaired with these changes

When 21st Century Stress Takes Over

Throughout human evolution, adrenal hormones and the sympathetic nervous system have suppressed digestive function during the stress response. Historically, the digestive system handled these fluctuations with relative ease. Now, though, stress-related digestive disorders like nervous stomach, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel and ulcers have become all too common. The stress response is the same as it has always been, but 21st century stress is dramatically different.

face as shattered glass by Flickr user AmateurArtGuy

Does stress leave you feeling like this?

Your stress response is designed to prepare you to physically deal with stress (running from a lion, for example), and the physical exertion helps dissipate stress hormones, quickly moving your body back into balance. However, modern stressors rarely require a physical response, and they tend to last longer and be more pervasive. For example, difficult relationships, unemployment, unsatisfying work, debts and mortgages affect your daily life and may last for months or years. Because you cannot fight with a loan or outrun a job, your stress hormones are not easily dissipated, and because the stressors do not go away, your brain keeps signaling your adrenals to make cortisol. As a result, digestion continues to be curtailed, with unhealthy consequences. To make matters worse, it is easy to disregard healthy habits when stressed. You may find yourself downing caffeine to keep going or drinking alcohol to calm down, both of which can damage your digestive tract lining even more. Sugary comfort foods contain very few nutrients, and sugar actually robs your body of B vitamins and other nutrients, pushing your nutritional status even lower. Routinely working through lunch or eating on the run does not give your parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response) a chance to even become activated!

If your adrenals fatigue from prolonged stress, digestion can suffer at the same time that food cravings increase because of low blood sugar, and digestive tract inflammation flares from the combined effects of slower digestion and decreased anti-inflammatory activity by cortisol.

Continue to part 3 – Rescuing Your Digestive System

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Stress and Digestion Part 1-Digestion and the Nervous System

Healthy Digestive Function

A healthy digestive system has a number of functions:

1. To break down food into small nutritional components that provide the vitamins, minerals, proteins, water and energy needed to maintain health.

2. To collect toxins, dead cells and other debris, and eliminate them from the body.

3. To act as a site for front-line immune defense.

During digestion, digestive enzymes, acids and other chemicals mix with food in the mouth, stomach and intestines to break down the food and extract nutrients. The intestinal wall acts as a filter, keeping toxins and debris inside and moving toward elimination while allowing the smaller nutrients to pass freely through the wall to enter the bloodstream. Once inside the blood, the nutrients are carried to all the tissues of the body that need them.

a colorized diagram of the digestive systemBecause digestive chemicals are very caustic and the specialized function of the digestive wall is so important, the linings of this wall are continually replenished to maintain its integrity. In fact, this is one of the areas of fastest cell turnover in the body. The degree of integrity of this wall has an impact on overall health, as well as the health of the digestive system because it affects the availability of energy and nutrients to cells throughout the body. Just as important are the quantity of digestive chemicals secreted, the length of time it takes the contents of digestion to move through the tract, the balance of intestinal bacteria, and the vigor of intestinal immune function. Stress modifies all of these aspects of your digestive system through the combined actions of your nervous system and adrenal hormones. To understand how this happens, it helps to first understand a little about how the nervous system affects the digestive system and what changes occur during the stress response.

Digestion and the Nervous System

nervous system by Flickr user cori kindredDigestive system function is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The purpose of the ANS is to control a vast array of life-sustaining activities in the body without requiring conscious thought. Imagine how exhausting it would be to have to remember to instruct your stomach to empty or to remind your mouth to secrete saliva. The ANS is subdivided into three main parts: 1. the enteric, 2. the sympathetic and 3. the parasympathetic nervous systems.

1. The enteric branch manages every aspect of digestion. It is sometimes referred to as the “second brain” or “gut brain” because in addition to innervating the smooth muscles, glands and organs of the digestive system, it produces neurotransmitters (brain messenger chemicals) in the gut that can influence cognition and mood as well as digestive function. It works independently and also interacts with the rest of the ANS to regulate the digestive system and modulate digestive function during stress.

2. The sympathetic branch responds to stress and mobilizes the body for a physical reaction, generally inhibiting digestion so that more resources are available to the brain, heart and muscles.

3. The parasympathetic branch is responsible for maintenance, repair, restoration, relaxation and digestion. The phrase “rest and digest” is sometimes used to describe what it does. Under the control of the parasympathetic nervous system, the following processes of digestion are supported:

digestion path by Flickr user return the sunSaliva and digestive enzymes are secreted to break down food

• Food travels through the tract at the optimal pace for nutrients to be absorbed

• Muscular contractions in the intestines are smooth and regular

• Sphincters are opened to allow normal passage of food through the gut

• A special type of mucus is continually secreted over the inner walls of the stomach and intestines to protect them against caustic digestive chemicals

• The lining of the tract is maintained and repaired regularly

• Blood flows through the digestive organs to receive nutrients from food and to bring oxygen from the lungs

• Beneficial bacteria grow, supported by a balanced intestinal environment

• The immune cells in the digestive tract protect the body and the tissues of the digestive system against infection

Continue to part 2 – When Stress Takes Over

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